Marc-André Hamelin - Etudes

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MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN - 12 Études - Theme and Variations - Con intimissimo sentimento - Marc-André Hamelin (Piano) - Hyperion CDA67789

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up, buy your tickets and come on in to witness some of the most death defying acts ever performed on a grand piano!

All of you who have been following Marc-André Hamelin's trajectory as he travels at the speed of light through the vast universe that is the classical music recording world, know full well that he can play any music that is thrown at him, from the very familiar to the extremely obscure. Therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise to know that he has also been a composer extraordinaire throughout his life. The 12 Études in all the minor keys, written over a period of 25 years, are some of the most demanding and challenging piano pieces ever written. They have been published so it will be fun to see who dares to decipher and master them well enough for a recording of their own.

Suffice it to say that these are truly flabbergasting piano works that will flummox even the most accomplished pianists. As an example, let's take a look at the Étude No. 12 in A flat minor: Prelude and Fugue from 1986. The Fugue itself is so complex, so convoluted and devious, that simply listening to it is challenging. It is so well written that the fugue subject is tossed around so effectively that it becomes hard to keep up with. Let alone play it, and play it well. Hamelin himself admits that he never meant for it to become such a monstrous agglomeration of cruel virtuosic devices. All the études not only demonstrate that Hamelin is a true Maître du Clavier, but that he also has a very creative mind. These are structurally and harmonically advanced compositions, that can easily sit on the same shelf alongside such works by Chopin, Godowsky or Scriabin. You will also be amazed by his imagination in the numbers in which he re-works the material of other composers such as Alkan, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, ... The other compositions on this recording, the Little Nocturne, Con intimissimo sentimento and the Theme and Variations display a more introverted side of Hamelin but no less ingenious. Some of them are beautiful miniatures that less advanced pianists could learn and then brag to their friends that they can play Hamelin.

If you want to be astounded and amazed by pianistic wizardry, you owe it to yourself to obtain this new Hyperion recording that once again proves that Marc-André Hamelin is not only an extraordinary virtuoso, but that he is also an extraordinary composer.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2010